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Robert Yellin
For Robert Yellin's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Mar 12, 2019
Bizen: Pottery that rose from the ashes
Of all the ancient high-fired unglazed stoneware styles in Japan, none is as popular as Bizen pottery, with its vareid colors and textures all the results of melting ash from the kiln.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Oct 10, 2017
It's the season to see Japan's best ceramics
This autumn, there are not one, but two extraordinary ceramic art exhibitions showing in Tokyo. The first highlights the solo works and private collection of Tokyo's Seimei Tsuji (1927-2008) at The National Museum of Modern Art Crafts Gallery, while the other is a dual-exhibition of Kyoto artists Kazuo Yagi (1918-1979) and Kiyomizu Rokubei VII, also known as Kiyomizu Kyubey (1922-2006), showing at Musee Tomo.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Oct 4, 2016
Kanjiro Kawai sculpted a new vision of pottery
Japan's history of ceramics stretches back for millenniums, with most spinners of clay remaining nameless. One star, however, did shape a new world of pottery: Kanjiro Kawai (1890-1966).
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Jul 14, 2015
Kitaoji Rosanjin only served the very best
Only a culinary visionary would declare in 1935: "If clothes make the person, dishes make the food."
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Feb 19, 2014
Ryuichi Kakurezaki: on clay and legends
It's not easy to make profound changes in a ceramic style that has a 1,000-year history. Take, for instance, the style known as Bizen. Bizen pottery is one of Japan's most celebrated high-fired unglazed ceramic styles, and continues to be so to this very day. Forms that started with farmers' needs in the 12th century morphed with the demands of the tea ceremony in the 16th century and basically have never changed, ever.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Sep 25, 2013
Chawan: Simply, some of the hardest works of pottery to create
In the world of Japanese traditional ceramics there is not one form held in higher esteem than a chawan, a "mere" bowl used to serve whipped green tea.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Jul 24, 2013
Crawling through the mud in style
It's quite fitting that the major Osamu Suzuki (1926-2001) retrospective, the first since the ceramicist's passing, is taking place at The National Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto, the hometown of the artist.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Feb 18, 2011
Japan's celebrated Edo Period painters: Having the good fortune to see all that is Gitter's
The first time I met renowned Japanese art collector Dr. Kurt Gitter was at an Asian art conference in New York in 2001, where he was on a discussion panel on Japanese art. An audience member asked Gitter, "Sir, since you and others have passionately collected antique Japanese works for decades and since a new collector is hard pressed to find fine examples, if you were a new collector in Japanese art today, what would you collect?"
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Oct 29, 2010
Modern serving of traditional tea
If you've ever been fortunate enough to attend a tea ceremony, then you know that within the simplicity of movements, the quiet beauty of the room and the refined elegance of the utensils, there is a deep world where the moment becomes living art.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Sep 3, 2010
Contemporary ceramics update the tea ceremony
The Way of Tea has for centuries been a cornerstone of Japanese culture and aesthetic beauty. An old Japanese proverb states: "If a man has no tea in him, he is incapable of understanding truth and beauty."
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art / CERAMIC SCENE
Apr 5, 2007
The rewards of hardship
One of Japan's most influential 20th-century ceramic artists, Mineo Okabe, was relatively unknown -- and certainly under-appreciated -- during his lifetime. Today, though, potters take great inspiration from, and collectors go gaga over, the bold new forms and styles he created.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art / CERAMIC SCENE
Dec 7, 2006
New forms of old traditions at the Japan Society
Over the past several years there have been quite a few exhibitions of Japanese ceramics overseas, but "Contemporary Clay/Japanese Ceramics for the New Century," which is now at the Japan Society Gallery in New York, is the most brilliant by far.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art / CERAMIC SCENE
Aug 24, 2006
Crafting the tea demon in Hagi
Psychologist Abraham Maslow (1908-1970), in his theory of self-actualization, said, "If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life."
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art / CERAMIC SCENE
Dec 22, 2005
Looking back on 10 years of yakimono
In the 10 years since this column started, much has changed in the worldwide perception of yakimono, Japanese ceramic art. I'm talking about in the contemporary realm, not antiques. The deep and wide world of contemporary Japanese ceramic art is as varied as there are stars in a brilliant winter night sky.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art / CERAMIC SCENE
Sep 29, 2005
Raku's hand-held universes and the unseen pots of Kamoda
The phrase "contemplation of the everyday object as a mystical resource" graces the back of a catalog from the 1998 Raku exhibition that toured Europe. I say it over and over in my mind like a mantra, challenging myself to be aware of the things I live with and how they not only satisfy my needs but also nourish my spirit. Although the item referred to there was chawan (tea bowl), it could apply to anything.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art / CERAMIC SCENE
Aug 31, 2005
Porcelain horizons, modern monoliths
There are works of art that, maybe only once in our lifetime, may define an era and capture life's boundless spirit with a beauty that both moves the heart and deepens the experience of existence.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art / CERAMIC SCENE
Jul 27, 2005
Liberating Japan's world of ceramics
In the ceramic world of early 20th-century Kyoto, Chinese ceramics, not Kyo-yaki (Kyoto-style pottery) were the rage of the day, and any potter worth a spin on the wheel strove to emulate them. In form and color, the ability to perfectly copy an ancient Sung dynasty vase was held up as the highest peak a Kyoto potter could climb. Kyoto was to remain bound in a Chinese spell for at least four decades, until World War II changed everything.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art / CERAMIC SCENE
Jun 29, 2005
Hidden gems in clay
Any new publication on Japanese ceramic art in English is a welcome addition to the few books on the subject. Like "Masterpieces of Modern Japanese Pottery from the Gisela Freudenberg Collection" currently showing in Frankfurt, Germany, many of these publications coincide with exhibitions and serve to educate the visitor on Japanese ceramic art information. This time the new tie-in book is from Germany, highlighting a private collection put together over three decades and now showing at the Museum fur Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt, Germany until Aug. 28.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art / CERAMIC SCENE
May 18, 2005
Spectacular diversity of clay
As noted in this column last month, Japanese ceramic art is finding a wider audience overseas. Many collectors search out the great potters of the past, such as Shoji Hamada (1894-1978) or Kanjiro Kawai (1890-1966), while more savvy collectors are looking to find out who's hot in Japan today.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art / CERAMIC SCENE
Apr 20, 2005
The Koreans who potted in Kyushu
Japan has long been fascinated with outside influences, and voraciously absorbs them in order to create something totally unique. This can be found in almost all aspects of Japanese industry and culture -- and it is nowhere more apparent than in the pottery born in Kyushu. Of course, ancient kilns dating back to the dawn of Japanese civilization are to be found on Kyushu, yet it wasn't until the late 1590s with the influx of Korean potters -- in the "Pottery Wars" -- that the island's pottery really matured.

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